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“Killing Them Softly” – Review (POSITIVE)

December 2, 2012

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 8.57.59 PMAndrew Dominik makes his second debut in the director’s chair, reuniting  again with Brad Pitt, from a dark, brooding, western (“The Assassination to Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”), the duo returns with a dark, brooding, and somewhat witty gangster film that is unlike any of the genre from the past few years; well you can argue that it shares a similar tone and aesthetic feel to 2011’s “Drive”. Be that as it may, “Killing Them Softly” is a visual delight for the eyes & ears, led by a powerhouse of talent; all this helpfully overshadows the simplistic storyline the movie has.

Three idiotic guys (Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, & Vincent Curatola) think they’re smart rob a mob protected card game, who was originally robbed by one of there own, Mark Trattman (Ray Liotta). Mark has found a way to find amends for his scheme, however, if the card game were for any reason was robbed again, Mark would be the first suspect, and would surly be taken ‘out’.  A mob-run card game being closed down due to a robbery causes the local criminal economy to collapse, set in the midst of the 2008 economic crash. Hit man & mob consultant Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is brought in to make things right, but he needs another guy to help with this labeled two-man job; in comes New York Mickey (James Gandolfini), only problem is Mickey may have lost his mojo for killing, leaving Jackie to clean up the entire mess all on his own.

The opening is extremely alarming, which will leave audiences confused and possibly nervous about what’s to come. The movie is conveniently set during the beginnings of the ’08 crash and the election between Obama & McCain, which gives the film an attention-grabbing allegory about capitalism, our government, and the politics of the criminal organization (what’s the difference really). The movie does a cool thing with it’s sound mixing, by tracing out the sounds from radios & television reporting’s regarding the issues in the country, while surrounding it around so-called ‘criminal injustices’ going on within the story. Perhaps this approach may come off as a bit blunt and over exemplifying, but I found it quite refreshing, if anything I feel that we’re given a different twist on the mob/gangster genre, it applies to bigger issues at hand.

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 8.58.26 PMYou can’t have a mobster movie and not have a dynamite cast, Dominik successfully gives the viewers this on a silver platter. It was indeed a fantastic choice to have Pitt return to an Andrew Dominik production, he killed it as Jesse James. However in this movie he plays a cynical, calculated, cold-hearted, realistic hit man that commands the screen every time he’s planning out and/or discussing the upcoming ‘job’. However, the scene-stealers go to the two dimwitted criminals that rob the card game, Scoot McNairy and recently scene in “The Dark Knight Rises”, Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn I feel has a shot at earning his first Academy Award nomination in the supporting role as Russell. Russell is a character so vial, cruel, and disgusting, you can’t help but wonder how McNairy’s Frankie ever would cross paths with him. A notable scene for Mendelsohn would be the scene where he’s hopped up on heroin telling a funny story about a job he did in Orlando. Gandolfini’s Mickey is an questionable character, which will leave many split upon his presence within the film. For me I liked his character more than the pathetic Mark Trattman that Ray Liotta plays. The way I saw it, Mickey is the future mirroring image of Jackie, is this what Jackie has to look forward to down the road?

If there is at all a problem with the movie, it’s to take away from the simplistic story. With all the political and ideological metaphors it’s throwing at us, the movie is simply about killing the men responsible for a crime.  “Drive” was a revenge picture, but it was an emotional, feral revenge picture, spiked with the emotional drive needed to get our character from point A to point B. Here, you have cynics running around stealing and killing from one another. Of course, you can go back and look the political allegory the movie is dangling about it’s story and themes. Nevertheless, for the simplicity the movie endured, I was completely engrossed from beginning to end. The visuals were astounding, especially for a crime film, the cinematography is at its highest praise, and a particular sound design used throughout really puts the viewer on an immersed trip.

I foresee some people not liking the movie for various reasons, whether it’s slow dialogue driven pacing, the crudeness from it’s selective characters, the ultra-violent imagery, or even the unconventional take of the gangster genre. All these various reasons are some of its strong points I see in my minds eye. And I would love to one day add this one in my Bluray collection, right next to “Drive” & “Goodfellas”.

GRADE: B+

Special thanks to Jennay Hickman for her input after the screening.

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